Chairman Ward noted that the fire department had shut down Latin Palace on Friday, October 31, for fire code violations, but that Mr. Ribadeneira had reopened the following day.
Ribadeneira was then asked to explain what he had done to soundproof his building since the prior hearing, a week earlier. The licensee testified that he took out four speakers that had been pointing at the wall he shares with his neighbors. He put some soundproofing on the stage and on the speakers. Ribadeneira said that he would like to do another sound test with the neighbors the next day. Chairman Ward said, “are you requesting a postponement again?” Ribadeneira said no, that he believes he has done everything in his power to soundproof his building.
Ms. Susan Hughes then cross-examined Ribadeneira. She asked him for permits and receipts for the work that he had done. Mr. Ribadeneira provided a copy of a check that he testified was paid to a contractor. Ribadeneira first said that the contractor “provided him with information,” then later testified that the contractor had also done the installation. Hughes asked if the housing inspectors had come back out to inspect after the work was done, and Ribadeneira said that housing doesn’t do that in this situation.
Chief Liquor Board Inspector Shelton Jones testified that he had visited the Latin Palace three times in the past week. The licensee has attempted to soundproof the wall, but when the inspectors did the sound test, the soundproofing was inadequate, according to Jones. The inspector pointed out that there are two dials – one on the volume switch and one on the master switch. When they turned up the music to a level five on each switch, the sound was way too loud. Jones was in the neighbor’s house during the test, and he saw the neighbors’ dishes vibrating and moving across the counter. Inspector Joann Martin corroborated this testimony.
Ms. Sunni Gilliam, the neighbor in question, testified that, since Mr. Ribadeneira installed the soundproofing, she has not observed any difference in the sound level coming through the wall. She said that, even with the volume set at 3, no one would be able to sleep in her home when the music is playing.
The licensee replied that when the building is empty, the sound seems louder and carries more. He reiterated that he had removed four speakers that were aimed at Ms. Gilliam’s home. The licensee’s daughter, Katie Ribadeneira Garcia, testified that they had gathered to do the sound test, but they got backtracked because of the issues with the fire department. She argued that they were not able to complete the sound test, and she asked for time to do another sound test.
Ward told Ribadeniera that the community members and inspectors are all saying that the sound is too high. Ribadeneira replied, “we need to operate. We’ve been desperately fighting this for three months.”
Commissioner Jones said that it looks to him as though Mr. Ribadeneira is not capable of correcting the problem. Jones said, “you either don’t have the ability [to soundproof the building] or you’re refusing to do it.” Jones said that he did not want to postpone the hearing again for another sound test. Commissioner Moore said, “as I see it, if I were to vote on the application today, I would have to say no. The requirements haven’t been met. The impact on your neighbor is so tremendously negative. There have been so many opportunities to get this corrected.” Moore pointed out that she follows the Latin Palace on Facebook, and she noted that whoever runs the page had posted remarks showing a “great level of contempt towards this Board” and a “real in-your-face attitude about what’s required” which she found “extremely disturbing.” She agreed with Commissioner Jones that Mr. Ribadeneira has utterly failed to do what is required. She told the licensee, “I believe that you want to come into compliance. You are a longstanding business in the Baltimore community. You have the potential. There is value in having Latin Palace exist.” But Moore said that she doesn’t know what the Board can do to get Latn Palace into compliance. She concluded, “I feel like we’re spending an inordinate amount of time, care and concern, but I don’t see that concern coming from you.”
The commissioners then voted on whether or not to postpone the case for another week so that the licensee can do another sound test with the neighbors. Ward and Jones voted no on the postponement request; Moore voted yes.
Ward explained to Ribadeneira that “the Board has bent over backwards for [him].” He told the licensee, “it’s not the Board’s job to figure out how to get into compliance with the law. The evidence is overwhelming that you’ve not finished your work of soundproofing. You’ve been given that opportunity.” Ward gave the licensee the option of withdrawing his request to lift the restrictions and to reapply later, when he has completed the soundproofing. The licensee and his daughter decided to take a few minutes to discuss the situation, and the case was put on hold.
The licensee decided, after asking for a postponement once more and being denied, to go forward with the hearing and not withdraw his request.
The inspectors and neighbor were called again and reiterated their former testimony. The licensee and his daughter reiterated their previous testimony that they would be willing to do further sound tests at different volumes. Ms. Hughes argued that the licensee hasn’t given the community any assurance that he would keep the volume any lower than it has been in the past.